21 Aug 2014
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Keep Your Communication Options Open in Case of Emergencies

Sometimes old school technology, or none at all, is the most effective way to deal with emergency situations

Keep Your Communication Options Open in Case of Emergencies

The old expression “hanging by the telephone” might confuse anyone under 30 these days. They have no idea what it was like before the advent of cell phones, and for those under 40, they may not remember a time without call-waiting or even answering machines. You had to wait at home for important phone calls.

Fast forward to today: You find yourself in a wireless dead zone or your battery dies. Desperation sets in. How will I call home? How can I connect with those I am supposed to have a business meeting?

Enter old school technology

Do you know that an address book also refers to a small book that has room for alphabetical listing of your friends, family and business contacts with their numbers, addresses and other information? Even if you don’t want to be a late adopter of this technology a slip of paper tucked in your wallet (not the virtual one) with important phone numbers can be an invaluable backup.

With the 911 failure after the , I was happy to have the non-emergency number for the police available on my phone contacts, but I also realized that maybe I should have it written down. Back in olden times, before 9-11, people kept notes by their phones with police, fire, poison control and other emergency contacts.

With power outages we found that the world around us was also effective. Gas stations, ATMs, grocery stores were not available in neighborhoods that were affected. Growing up in South Florida, we knew that when there were storm warnings we needed to fill tanks and get cash out for emergencies. This is more important, perhaps, than our region’s rush to stock up with toilet paper and milk before small snowstorms.

Landline phones, what is known in tech circles as POTS (plain old telephone service), play a role even with the emergency is a lack of a phone charger. If you need to get in touch, find a phone and leave a message with voicemail or even a live person. If you are away on a business or pleasure trip, family and friends should be notified of where you are staying before you leave.

If there is an urgent message, they can contact your hotel and leave a note for you at the front desk. And if you need to get in touch with home, most hotels have phones in the rooms (ok, being a bit cheeky here, they all do) where, for a charge, you can make that call.

Life without the machines

We all tend to get a bit panicky when our technology doesn’t do what we want it to do. We haven’t yet found a way to use all that nervous energy to add back to the power grid. Have a few backups in place using technology that has served us in the past. Paper, pencil, planning. Ask someone a bit older perhaps for how they solved their communication needs.

And if your whole life is stored in virtual form that would be lost forever with the loss of just one or two devices, create a backup regime with a trusted provider that could be accessed from other devices. The most important information such as bank accounts, insurance contacts, medical information deserves both paper and virtual storage.

Most of us are optimists by nature, but we have a responsibility to be prepared. Even if that preparation is to just avoid frustration. When technology fails, remember not being able to access Facebook is not something to stress over. I think we all learned that being offline every now and then can be a nice break. Especially on vacation!

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